Red Hook Labs and 1:54 Contemporary Art Fair bring a solo show of the iconic Malian photographer to NYC
Visitors to Nataal’s New African Photography II exhibition at Red Hook Labs in early May will also be treated to a special solo show by the late, great Malick Sidibé. Hosted by Red Hook Labs’ Jimmy Moffat in collaboration with Magnin A, Paris and 1:54 Contemporary Art Fair (which is happening concurrently at Pioneer Works next door), The Eye of Modern Mali features 37 original photographs from the 1960s and 1970s based around the themes of Tiep à Bamako (Nightlife in Bamako), Au Fleuve Niger (Beside the Niger River) and Le Studio.
The exhibition was originally curated for Sidibé‘s first major UK show at Somerset House as part of 1:54 London last October, opening just six months after the artist’s death aged 80. “Sidibé was such an influencer and amazing photographer that it is important to share his work,” says 1:54 founder Touria El Glaoui. “New York has not encountered this many of his prints in one room before so this is a well deserved homage to a legend. I love every piece of his work, they bring joy every time you look at them.”
Born in the mid 1930s, Sidibé worked the fields as a boy until a school scholarship took him to Bamako, where French photographer Gérard Guillat chose him as his assistant. He opened Studio Malick in the Bagadadji quarter in 1958 and, becoming known as ‘the eye of Bamako’, he would cycle around the city’s streets, beaches and parties documenting the joie de vivre of the Malian capital in the wake of the country’s independence in 1960. It was a time when the youth were in bloom and ready for their close up. He captured their exuberance and confidence perfectly, for their viewing pleasure the next day, and thanks to his extensive archive, for posterity too.
Sidibé went on to focus more on his studio in the 1970s, where locals came to pose in their finery in front of cloth and painted backdrops. “It was like a place of make-believe. People would pretend to be riding motorbikes, racing against each other. It was not like that at the other studios,” Sidibé said. His work set standard for African studio photography alongside his predecessor Seydou Keïta, and has influenced successive generations of image-makers worldwide.
Exhibiting and selling internationally from the 1990s onward, Sidibé’s accolades include the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography in 2003, the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2007 (the first photographer – and African – to be granted the honour), and the Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography in 2008. He continued to work from his studio until his death in April 2016. Remarks Robert Storr, art critic and former MoMA curator: “No African artist has done more to enhance photography’s stature in the region, contribute to its history, enrich its image archive or increase our awareness of the textures and transformations of African culture in the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st than Malick Sidibé.”
Read about Nataal’s New African Photography here
Malick Sidibé: The Eye of Modern Mali runs from 4-7 May 2017 at Red Hook Labs, 133-135 Imlay Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11231